What you need to man up
Like most men I’ve been shaving since puberty. Unlike most men, I shave the way your grandfather did 50 years ago; with a straight razor, a badger brush and a hot towel. In other words, I shave like a man.
The lost art of shaving has been plagued by disposable shaving equipment heavily marketed as being superlative and safe options. While they have skyrocketed in popularity, let’s not forget that Big Macs and Budweiser are also popular. It doesn’t mean they’re any good.
I’ve used almost every style of razor imaginable. From electric to cartridge, safety to straight, I own every Gillette cartridge razor and Schick razor as well. I despise them on a molecular level. It’s not because they’re bad. It’s because they’re a cheap variation of what many men once considered to be an experience.
Sure I can slice it all off in minutes with a Mach 3, but I don’t want that. I want the traditional experience of the perfect shave.
So what are the benefits?
Significant cost savings. While initially the equipment and tools you’ll need cost more than your cartridge razor, the benefit is saving huge amounts of money over time. To put it into perspective, you can buy a pack of four Gillette Fusion blades for about $20. I can order an entire year’s worth of scalpel sharp doubled edge blades for five dollars more that give me a far closer shave. For my straight razor, so long as I keep the blade clean and sharp, I’ll never have to buy another blade.
What do you need?
When it comes to wet shaving you’ll need a few basic items:
A straight razor or a DE safety razor.
I recommend a DOVO or Thiers Issard razor for straight shaving, but a Merkur for DE shaving. You can find them online or pick one up at Thomas Hinds Tobacconist. You might find a better deal on the Internet though.
A quality badger brush.
This is the brush you’ll use to whip and apply your shave cream or soap. I recommend sticking with a Pure Badger or Silver Tip Badger brush. Stay far away from synthetic and only go with boar if you really need to save money. The brush is what helps give you a thick and creamy foam.
This only applies if you’re going with a safety razor. There are many blades on the market and I recommend researching which blade will work best for your hair type. There are many online resources that can help you. I myself use Feather blades as I have very coarse facial hair.
Strops and Hones
If you went the straight razor route you’re going to want to buy a quality strop and hone. This is what helps keep your blade surgically sharp. Without it, you’ll have a dull blade in no time. Make sure you watch some YouTube instruction videos before trying it so you don’t ruin your blade.
Shave creams, soaps and lotions
Wet shaving is a process. You’re going to want a pre shave oil, a high quality cream or shave soap (not aerosol) and an after shave cooling balm at the very least. At home, I have a wide variety of options even including rose water that I splash on my face after shaving. The options are endless and a little online research will make choosing your product fairly simple. You could also visit a Sephora store and pick up a variety of shaving products including the new and exquisite product line by American Crew.
Towels and bowls
One of the most important parts of your shave is having a selection of clean, steamed towels. Placing a hot towel on your face prior to shaving helps open the pores, which allows for a smoother and closer shave, eliminating razor burn. Combined with the pre shave oil, this is an essential part of ensuring you don’t bleed to death.
For more information on how to properly shave there are a wide variety of websites and videos online that can help guide you. Before buying your own razor, check out one of the few barbershops in Winnipeg that offer faux-straight razor shaves. Just don’t expect miracles. I went to a few to review and walked out feeling like they scraped my face with sandpaper. Try them first and then watch how it’s done online.
• Berns & Black on Main
• Tommy Gun’s on Kenaston
• Hunter & Gunn on Broadway.
J.A. Shapira is a lifestyle journalist based in Winnipeg and a Brand Ambassador for American Crew.
Bristle Knot – A shave brush’s price is most often determined by its bristle load, with prices ranging from a couple of bucks to upwards of the $300 mark. The bristles are joined together by a knot installed in the handle; the highest quality of them hand knotted.
Strop – A flexible strip of leather or canvas used to straighten and polish the blade of a straight razor.
Hone – A whetstone of fine, compact texture for sharpening razors and other cutting tools.